“Live Bookmarks” is not RSS

A few days ago we changed Firefox’s Live Bookmarks status icon to something less geeky.

Live Bookmarks status icon before and after

As people rightly pointed out, Live Bookmarks shouldn’t pretend to be RSS. The status bar icon should not represent multiple flavors of a syndication format. It should represent the Live Bookmarks feature.

Here are some of Stephen Horlander’s original sketches for a replacement Live Bookmark icon

Live Bookmark icon sketches by Stephen Horlander

Initially the RSS button design was suggested by members of the Mozilla Visual Identity team. At the time, it seemed natural that we’d want to use something similar to the semi-ubiquitous orange RSS chiclet found on web sites that offer news feeds. I even rationalized that RSS is becoming an almost generic term for news feeds, and even though Live Bookmarks supports RSS and Atom, an icon that said “RSS” wouldn’t confuse people. What the heck, Apple does it too!

But that’s a poor excuse. You shouldn’t need to know what RSS or Atom is to use Live Bookmarks.

31 thoughts on ““Live Bookmarks” is not RSS

  1. Whatever you do, keep in mind: you have now the chance to make a standrd icon for Newsfeeds. I personaly think that the RSS Icon is much better then the new Apple-AirPort-like icon, because many people allready know RSS icons from many webpages. RSS is a synonym for “NewsFeeds” like mp3 is a synonym for Music. Nobody really cares if it is an RSS or an Atom feed or whatever – as long as I can read it in my newsreader.

  2. We should also be careful that we don’t misrepresent RSS with our icon or set up false expectations on the part of the user. A user shouldn’t think that an orange RSS icon on a website will do the same thing as the Firefox RSS tstaus icon when they click on it.

    More generally, we should always prefer normal human terms and imagery over technical ones.

  3. I feel inclined to agree with Max on this issue. What we’ve seen from the designer’s ends is thinking at a level that is far above where your average end user thinks. Great for us geeks who realize the differences, but not so great for John Q. User who is just learing what RSS means, and would find an RSS icon meaningful. This goes right along with the people who equate IE’s big blue “e” icon with the internet at large, even though it’s not. In this world, you have to cater to a wider audience than a bunch of developers who are going to take issue with something as trivial and technical as this.

  4. Personally, I love the new icon. It’s much more memorable.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a theme for Omniweb that uses something very similiar for its RSS icon. It was based on the wave icon in iCal for a subscribed calendar. I’ll have to rethink it now though! Curses!!!

  5. “not so great for John Q. User who is just learing what RSS means, and would find an RSS icon meaningful”

    But John Q User generally doesn’t know what RSS means, and wouldn’t find it meaningful initially. If John Q User doesn’t know what “RSS” is, why should we teach them something inaccurate, when we could avoid the inaccuracy and their knowing what RSS is at all?

    Being inaccurate for geeks who know about RSS and Atom; being too big; being inconsistent across the app and looking like “ASS” are other reasons to change…

  6. I searched and couldn’t find that bug.

    So I figured the ASS bug was as good as any :) Apparently the humor was lost on some people.

  7. I like the satellite dish. The lightning icons resemble those of Winamp too much IMHO.

  8. Wow, that’s a nice icon to replace [RSS]. Great job. I myself almost cracked my head thinking what should the Livemarks icon looks like.

    You guys are really professional.

  9. I think work like this and the attention to detail and acuracy you’re exercising in this project is outstanding Kevin.

    I can see the points about it maybe looking a little like a “Wireless” icon, but it’s still very good. Despite the possible WinAMP ident risks, it could still be worth exploring the ‘lightning’ icon look again, especially with the white-on-organge background look that really is effective. I could see that working (albeit in my own head…).

  10. It’s an improvement for sure, but to really make it look like Live Bookmarks I think it should incorporate references to some of the following: live (energy), news (satellite wave), and bookmarks. Perhaps a small bookmark icon with this wave symbol over an orange background?

  11. It’s tough to represent something as abstract as Live Bookmarks in a 16px square icon. At that size when you start adding elements you make the icon harder to read.

  12. the new live bookmarks icon looks great, but what about the fact that the RSS icon appears under the window’s resize gripper on OS X? That bug has been there for a while now and it’s annoying. :)

  13. I agree that using “RSS” to mean “any syndication format” is probably a bad idea.

    But I’m torn on the new icon. It really does look like the “wireless connection” icon. I usually hate it when applications hijack existing icons for new uses.

    Of course, I’m not sure I can think of anything better. My first thought was the “RSS” logo if there’s an RSS feed, and the Atom logo if there’s an Atom feed, but that may just confuse users even more.

    Another idea is to use the orange chiclet with “XML” on it, which some sites use. (Atom and RSS are both XML, so it’s not lying.)

    I’m also not crazy about where it’s located. I think Safari’s position for it — in the URL bar — is better, because it associates the link with this page. The icon to the left of the URL is for bookmarking it, and the icon on the right is for live-bookmarking it.

  14. I really like the idea of having the icon up on the URL bar, after all, the normal bookmark icon is there, why not the live bookmarks, now that it has been pointed out, it just makes sense.
    I second the comment that that new icon looks too much like a wireless icon, and as this has nothing to do with wireless I think a better choice could be made.
    I would put it beside the normal bookmark, rather than seperate it out to the other side, that way both ways of bookmarking the page are in the same place, and make sure that there is a placeholder there for when there is no newsfeed (maybe a ghost of the icon), to indicate that there is no newsfeed and to keep all the elements of the toolbars in the right place (when elements of toolbars move around just because you have changed the page, or even just switched tabs could be a real PITA, like I have found in some other apps).
    Personally I think that the orange colour should be kept (it seems to be somewhat distinctive), and it needs to indicate both bookmarks, and live. My preference would be the folder with the lightning. In order to make sure that it is distintive and dosn’t look like something else (like the wireless one does, or this could if the lightning was orange/yellow), what if the bookmark folder was orange to match the current colour of the RSS/XML feed icons, and the lightning was white (after all, lightning looks white 😉

  15. I browsed into Sage’s package files and used your new RSS icon as my Sage Extension icon. Looks VERY cool!! I think you need to create an icon for the Sage people. :)

  16. Hah. I am a John Q. User, and upgrading to 1.0 has killed my live newsfeeds under “Latest Headlines”. Attempts to restore using Mozilla Help have failed. The Livemark loading message has been there for 2 days.

  17. Personally, I like the icon plus the word subscribe as used at the top of this blog. 😉

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